Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb


Have you ever been walking and, out of the blue, looked down to spot a penny on the ground? …On the sidewalk?  …In a parking lot?  … Insignificant?/Coincidence?  …Maybe/maybe not.

As a decades-long fan/reader of the advice columns of the twin sisters Ann Landers and`  Abigail (Dear Abby)Van Buren [both now departed], I remember a many, many years ago letter from a reader who wrote about the significance of finding a penny on the ground.


Raija Anttila

Raija Anttila

Since my last column in January, I have lost my dear Ӓiti.  She was the most wonderful, intelligent, inspirational, caring person ever –and I miss her so.

The Candle Day event at the Finnish Church Service on February 3rd was very special and poignant.  Our inspirational Pastor Tarkki reported on the great work of the Western Congregations he is shepherding on behalf of the Finnish Lutheran Church in North America.  While Super Bowl Sunday made for a ‘female leaning’ attendance, great fellowship was the order of the day.


When Pastor Tarkki told of my Mother’s passing, the hugs and support of fine Finnish friends (Pirkko, Mirja, Tiina, Linda, Tomi, Jukka, Mira, and so many others — progeny of amazing Finnish Mothers themselves) meant so much to my Father and me.

Dear friends and family in Finland were kind enough to send loving thoughts.  I caught my Finland friend Bitte in a ‘warmer climate’.  She and her family were in the middle of a paella course celebrating the big 80th birthday of her husband, Jörn.  If you have access to the most recent issue of Suomen Kuvalehti, you will be treated to an eyeful of our former LA Consul General in all his glory in his Helsinki library.

Triumphant Return—Fanfare Forbidden!

A memorable and special recent visit brought Maria and Tapio Serenius back with us in Los Angeles.  The time has gone so quickly since their tenure here.  Not just the time, but the advances in technology and innovation that have taken place underlined the exciting ‘wireless’ communication revolution that occurred during now-retired-Ambassador Serenius’ term as our  Consul General over a decade ago.  Finland was in the forefront.  Nokia commanded the cell phone market—even introducing the ‘computer phone’ before Jobs and Apple figured out the ‘app’/’touch screen’ formula.  Maria made sure the world knew this revolution was Finnish in origin even though she silently subscribed to then-Ambassador Jaakko Laajava’s admonition that Finns needed to learn to “market” [read: “boast”] –one day!

Jack and Ava with Maria and Tapio Serenius

Jack and Ava with Maria and Tapio Serenius

While billed as a drop-in-nostalgia-visit to an old “stomping ground”, I saw it as a true “victory lap”.  Just retired, Maria and Tapio celebrated her stunning diplomatic career with an ‘around-the-world’ tour—months of exotic travel for fun, not work, for a change.  I am pleased that we in LA were able to be part of an amazing career at a special place and time in California/Finland history.  Maria Serenius came to Los Angeles as our first woman Consul General of Finland.  The trail she blazed continues to shine brightly.

Maria Serenius and Ava Anttilla

Maria Serenius and Ava Anttilla

The far too modest, but typically Finnish, duo brightened our hearts with their presence.  Their warmth and their ‘specialness’ made their return conjure very wonderful memories for all of us who have known them and who were part of their ‘reign’.

Let Them Eat Soup!

Tapio –the ever charming, dapper, chivalrous “renaissance man” (who also works as a business consultant), was in my cross-hairs for a ‘brain picking’ even before I knew they were on their way to LA.  I was on a mission to learn the secrets to his Bouillabaisse.  His was a dish that had been in my culinary dreams since tasting it at a party many years ago.

Ava Anttila and Tapio Serenius

Ava Anttila and Tapio Serenius

We Finns love our fish and, especially, any kind of fish soup.  Finnish Salmon soup is on the menus of the finest palaces of culinary delight in Helsinki, as well as, on the menu at the Presidential Palace […or, so I have heard].  It has been a quest of mine to learn to make the best fish soup as ‘locals’ do it whether here on the Pacific Coast, in Marseille in the South of France, or on the shores of a Finnish lake with perch, pike, whitefish, bream, or ‘whatever’ right out of the net or katiska that morning.

Tapio delivered!!  The Bouillabaisse was awesome!!!  I will share the Serenius adventure soon.

…Or Not

Our current superstar Consul General Kirsti Westphalen is the Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps representing almost 100 countries in the Western United States.  Last week Consul Westphalen and her husband, Abdellatif  Mouffakir, hosted an elegant dinner for the Emeritus Members of the Consular Corps and for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Kirsti is the perfect leader of this international group with her background in various countries, cultures, and languages.  Her warmth, charm, and inclusion brought leaders from around the World together with important ‘players’ on the Los Angeles scene.  For example, I was seated between Chris Vigueria-Crabtree, a former LA County Head of Protocol (now Program Director for the World Affairs Council), and Elga Sharpe, Chief of Protocol for the City of Los Angeles.  Elga is a whirlwind- of- a woman who serves as a perfect liaison between Hollywood and politics.  Even though no ‘personal/city/state/national/global secrets’ were breached, the back and forth stories and anecdotes at the table would have made for a fascinating article –or even a book or a mini-series!  It was especially delicious fodder considering our pending local Mayoral election.  But…my lips are sealed!

Finnish Chef Sirpa delivered a lovely and delicious meal, as always.  Each course was beautifully presented on the cobalt blue china with Finland’s Gold Lion emblem.  The first course was a codfish mousse with quail egg and salmon caviar on a rye crust.  The main course was short ribs with horseradish mashed potatoes.  Dessert was a raspberry pastry with blackberries, berry mousse, and whipped cream.  Each was a delight to the eyes and to the palate!

I was proud to be a Finn watching Finland entertain the World with such style and grace—and, beautiful tastes!  I was happy, too, that my dear Mother (–a stickler for perfect etiquette) had taught me how to navigate through the myriad knives, forks, and spoons that surrounded the glamorous plates.  Talk about a “final exam”—seated between two Protocol experts!

The Beat Goes On

While anyone stricken by the death of a loved one knows, at some point one must go forward with the ordinary tasks of life.  Life stops, but after the initial shock, Life resumes “…in its petty pace from day to day.”

The first day out of the house with my Dad required the minimum: stops at the drug store, the bank, and the Trader Joe’s in Westwood.  The Rite Aid drug store had several steps to get to street level –waiting on the steps something caught my eye: a penny.  A trip across the street to the bank and, you guessed it, there was another penny on the pavement in front of the door.  Still, we did not pay much attention.  At the last stop, Trader Joe’s where I always buy a lot and use a credit card, I ran in to buy just one item and paid cash.  The change equaled one cent.  The cashier stuffed my 1₵ into my palm with the receipt.  The coin fell to the ground.  As I picked it up, there it was: a brand new, freshly minted, bright, shiny penny.  I got the message!  My Mother was letting us know she was THERE –she had made it: she was now a newly minted Angel in Heaven.

Penny from Heaven

Penny from Heaven

Ӓiti always did have a way of getting her message across.

Looking Back

Something sweet, warm, fragrant, and Finnish coming from the oven can be comforting and help sooth Winter [and other] blues.

In the ‘70s, when our children were little, my neighbor and I were lucky enough to have Finnish Au Peres help out in our homes and with our little ones.  These lovely young ladies enjoyed hanging out with the Finnish hockey players then affiliated with the LA Kings –I think the Kings enjoyed their company too!

The girls liked going to the Sunset Strip, dancing there (and around the house) to Cindy Lauper’s “…girls just want to have fun”, and sleeping late.  One of the girls, Essi, had attended culinary school in Finland.  Her recipe for cookies is several decades old and is almost guaranteed to bring hockey players to your door!  [Yes, Teemu Selanne is married—besides, he is a Duck and may be immune to ‘King bait’.]

This is a doubled recipe.  Why?  Because that is the way Essi did it—and it works!  You might as well make the whole bunch batch: freeze some, give some away, send some to someone special in a shoe box, put some on a large platter and call over your friends for a Finnish coffee, or, now while the Kings hold the Stanley Cup, it might be fun to find out just how many  it takes to fill the Cup!  [Remember to save some for your own eating pleasure!]

Jääkiekko: Hockey Cookies

Jääkiekko: Hockey Cookies

Jääkiekko: Hockey Cookies

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted

3 cups sugar

2 cups raisins

3 cups flour

4 cups old fashioned oatmeal flakes

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup cream

1-2 tablespoons Dark Karo Syrup



Mix dry ingredients; then, add in wet.

Using a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, drop cookie dough in mounds onto a greased or Silpat-lined cookie sheet and bake at 375º F for about 8-10 minutes.

Open a window to let the Kings catch the aroma!!


Double click on picture above to view it in larger size


Pennies From Heaven

By Georgy

I found a penny today

just laying on the ground

But it’s not just a penny

this little coin I found

“Found” pennies come from heaven

that’s what my Grandpa told me

He said angels toss them down

oh, how I loved that story

He said when an angel misses you

they toss a penny down

Sometimes just to cheer you up

make a smile out of your frown

So don’t pass by that penny

when you’re feeling blue

It may be a penny from heaven

that an angel tossed to you





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